Oct 30, 2018
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Roberto Funari takes over from Márcio Utsch as CEO of Alpargatas

Oct 30, 2018

Brazilian footwear and accessories group Alpargatas is refreshing its leadership. CEO Márcio Luiz Simões Utsch will step down from his role after 21 years with the company, 15 of which were spent in his current position, and will be succeeded by Roberto Funari, a member of the group's Board of Directors.

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A business and administration graduate with an MBA from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Utsch held a number of different financial roles at the Brazilian company before becoming CEO in 2003, when Alpargatas was still owned by Camargo Correa. Having joined Alpargatas' Board of Directors last year, Roberto Funari will be taking over from Utsch in the first quarter of 2019, bringing with him experience as a senior executive at British home and cleaning product company Reckitt Benckiser.

Under the leadership of Márcio Utsch, Alpargatas became the foremost footwear company in South America, leading a strong portfolio that includes flip-flop brands Havaianas and Dupé, boot label Sete Léguas and the Brazilian license for sportswear brand Mizuno, as well as homegrown fashion label Osklen, acquired by the group in 2012. Utsch was also responsable for leading the company's expansion and doubling its sales in recent years, with revenues totalling 4 billion reais (1.2 billion euros) in 2016. According to the Brazilian press, the CEO's departure comes a few months after his 60th birthday, which technically marks the maximum age at which he could have stayed in the role, although in this particular case his tenure could have been renewed, had it not been for the distance between the executive and the company's new owners: Cambuhy Investimentos, Brasil Warrant and holding company Itaúsa.

Following the Petrobras corruption scandal which rocked Camargo Correa in November 2015, the conglomerate sold Topper's Brazilian subsidiary and Rainha to businessman Carlos Wizard Martins for 48.7 million reais as it tried to raise funds to pay its fine. In the same month, the group sold Alpargatas to J&F Investimentos for 2.7 billion reais (716.3 million euros). Only two years later, in July 2017, Cambuhy Investimentos and Brasil Warrant, along with holding company Itaúsa, acquired Alpargatas for 3.5 billion reais (970 million euros). 

In the first half of this year, the group reported a 7.5% rise in sales, which totalled 1.79 billion reais (430.8 million euros), while profits fell 44% to 131.2 million reais (31.5 million euros). In September, Alpargatas sold 22.5% of Topper Argentina to Carlos Wizard Martins' Sforza group for 100 million reais (20.6 million euros). Since then, the brand has undergone a comprehensive restructuring plan on the Argentinian market which has meant closing a number of factories and laying off hundreds of workers. 

Alpargatas' change of CEO promises to be a historic moment for the company after 15 years being led by Márcio Utsch. Furthermore, the group will be undertaking this management reboot at a time when Brazil is moving towards a new and uncertain future. Liberal initiatives, protectionism and far-right politics all feature in the programme drawn up for the country by Jair Bolsonaro, who was elected as president of Brazil over the weekend. Roberto Funari's Alpargatas will therefore have to face up to the challenges thrown at it by a new era characterised by an economic overhaul  – not to mention political upheaval. 

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